Tony Romo's legend grows on two plays

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo didn’t see Terrance Williams' 43-yard touchdown catch. He heard it.

“You can tell when people catch the ball for touchdown,” said Romo, who raised his right arm while on the ground in celebration after taking a hit. “Being on the ground, in a different part of the stadium, you can tell when a touchdown happens.”

Romo didn’t really see Dez Bryant's 37-yard catch in overtime, either. He heard that one, too. Two plays later he was able to see and hear Dan Bailey kick a 49-yard field goal to give the Dallas Cowboys a 20-17 win over the Houston Texans.

“I see the cornerback and you’re going to want to put it past him, but you don’t want to overthrow [Bryant] in that specific route because he’s such a good player,” Romo said. “I had some guys bearing down on me, so you have to try and be accurate under duress. That’s why you practice all those hours for.”

Just add them to Romo’s list of he-didn’t-really-do-that-did-he plays he has made in his nine years as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback.

“It just seems like it’s at the most critical times of the game,” said tight end Jason Witten, who has seen all of them from Romo. “Just big-time plays by him.”

The touchdown pass to Williams was more impressive, if not more important. That he was able to elude J.J. Watt to free himself from a sack was beyond description. Romo did not see Watt coming from his blind side after the All-Pro defensive end was able to time the snap perfectly to beat the Cowboys’ Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith.

As Watt took aim at Romo’s left shoulder for a big hit, the quarterback spun away, back and to the left.

“You can instinctively feel it, and at the last second, do what you think gives you the best chance to get out of it and make the play,” Romo said.

Watt had nine quarterback hits the previous week against the Buffalo Bills. He didn’t have any Sunday.

"Those are the type of things that weigh on you,” Watt said of his missed sack, sounding like great pass rushers over the years who have been bamboozled by Romo.

Scott Linehan was head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 2007 when Romo had one of his first Houdini plays, reeling in an errant shotgun snap, running 37 yards for a 4-yard gain for a first down. Linehan was able to experience the positive side of Romo’s improvisation Sunday.

“I think people call it a Spidey sense,” Linehan said. "I don’t know what it is. He has a way of just kind of finagling his way out of some of those trouble spots. He’s a great athlete. He buys time. He keeps plays alive. He’s not an off-schedule player, but there’s certain times where he can get off schedule and keep making plays. He’s one of the best in the league at it.”

Romo’s overtime throw was on schedule, but the Texans defense altered when he wanted to throw the ball. Romo went back to the play after it led to an intentional grounding penalty that helped Houston set up its game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter. Before the snap he signaled for Bryant to run a stutter-go, but the Texans rushed six and safety D.J. Swearinger was able to come free up the middle.

Romo had to throw the ball earlier than he wanted, ducking as Swearinger closed. Bryant secured the ball to his chest as he fell back to the ground for the 37-yard gain.

“I've got to come down with it,” Bryant said. “That's something that I always tell Tony. If the ball is in the air, I'm going to try my best to come down with it. That's exactly what I did. The crazy thing about it is we practice these situations every Thursday, and it came up.”

The completion gave Romo 324 yards on the day, his first 300-yard passing game of the season and the first since undergoing back surgery last December. If there were questions about his back, these two plays answered them.

“The back injury doesn’t always allow you to be at your best. I wasn’t always able to show that part of it earlier," Romo said. “As my back has gotten healthier and healthier, I have been to kind of feel that and see it and just be able to work in different positions and put the ball exactly where I want to. It doesn’t mean you are always going to be perfect, but more often than not, I feel very confident waking up knowing it’s going to be the same every day."